2019 ESL Jefferson Award Winner: John Salzer

May 06, 2019 06:05 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — News10NBC is once again proud to present the ESL Jefferson Awards. Each year, we recognize five finalists who go above and beyond, volunteering their time, to make our community a better place.

News10NBC's Pat Taney introduces us to one of our finalists, who at 93 years old shows no signs of slowing down.

He's a man who goes by many names. 

"My real name is John Salzer, but everyone calls me Jack," Salzer said.

But at Rochester's International Academy, students call him "papa."

"These are all refugee students," Salzer said. "These three girls are from Burma."

An engineer by trade, he spent 40 years at Kodak before retiring.

But life for "Papa Jack" was just getting started. He began helping refugees settle in Rochester for Catholic Family Center.

His work caught the eye of a school leader. 

"She heard about my efforts with the refugees and talked me into coming to the Rochester school system," Salzer said. 

That was 30 years ago. He's still working hard in and out of the classroom.

"They call me on the phone, 'I have to go to the doctor. Can you help me?' Sure, okay," Salzer said.

Building lifelong relationships, he's like a second dad or grandad.

"So I have a lot of granddaughters and daughters and sons here," Salzer said. "It keeps going onward. It's not just in the school but carries on after the school."

As if all that is not enough.

"I volunteer with Lifespan and we take older people to doctors appointments," Sazler said. "Twenty-six times a year I take a blind man shopping and I've been doing that for 38 years."

His work has not gone unnoticed.

Salzer says being Jefferson Award finalist is his greatest honor so far. 

"It surmounts all of those (awards)," Salzer said. "It's something not everyone gets.

But he's not in it for the recognition.

"The main thing is to help people that are in need, if they need something, help them out," Salzer said. "Just the fact that the students and other members of the refugee community appreciate what I do and that makes me feel good."


Pat Taney

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